Rob Reader

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Rob Reader

Rob Reader’s book reviews

The plays of Shakespeare along with the writing of Chaucer are often credited as the founding of the modern English language. Many of the plays seem convoluted and somewhat awkward to modern sensibilities. Historians and critics challenge the interpretation of facts by the bard and recently a strange theory has arisen proposing that Shakespeare was actually born of a northern Italian family and brought to Stratford at an early age. If so he seems to have mastered the language rather quickly.

It is not the plays them self which attract me so much as the bard's turn of phrase and wondrous insight. Rather than attempt a review of this book, an almost impossible task I would simply like to list some of the phrases oft quoted from the masters body of work. If you do not appreciate them there is no point reading this volume.

He is little, but he is feared.
To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.
And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.
The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.
Listen to many, speak to a few.
This above all; to thine own self be true.
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.
How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
I may neither choose who I would, nor refuse who I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father.
God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another.
The golden age is before us, not behind us.
Poor and content is rich, and rich enough.
My crown is called content, a crown that seldom kings enjoy.
There is no darkness but ignorance.
When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.
They do not love that do not show their love.
'Tis not enough to help the feeble up, but to support them after.
Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge.
I see that the fashion wears out more apparel than the man.
He that loves to be flattered is worthy o' the flatterer.
'Tis better to bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not of.
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.

Please do forgive this exceedingly long list of quotes from the bard. However if these do not please you I suggest you may choose to refrain from this work. If they do please you be assured there are hundreds more to savor.
Please note the "Complete Works of William Shakespeare" are not truly complete.
The "Horror of the Heights" and "The New Catacomb" are amongst the finest short fiction written by Doyle. "The Man with the Watches" is a pleasant read as is "The Lost Special". It is amazing that one man who thought so little of his fiction and so much of his long and tedious biographies could consistently be not only the founder of the modern detective mystery but the creator of such memorable characters. I recommend this book to all.
A groundbreaking, extremely important and totally boring book. Important for the development of Darwin's theory of evolution but otherwise deserving of a pass. I am sure the research and observations upon nature deserve 5 stars. As an interesting read I give it 2 stars. It contains much more information on birds, insects and turtles that I have ever needed to know.
Morley is more than a good writer. His characters are quirky and interesting, his dialogue is bright and seems reflective of Washington Irving and Mark Twain. He holds an all encompassing knowledge of American literature which would put Van Wyck Brooks to shame, his literary opinions are always interesting and his reading recommendations are a much welcome gift. Despite the many good things in the book the ghost story lacks a ghost, the mystery is only marginally mysterious and the romance between an advertising salesman and the daughter of his wealthy client seems tentative.

It is a worthy read for a rainy day when one has nothing else to do but I believe inferior to Morley\'s previous effort Parnassus On Wheels. Recommended with two stars for the story and four stars for everything else.
I read this wonderful book forty years ago whilst at university and loved it. Now that I have found it on ManyBooks I shall have the opportunity to digest it again. Scott was an unusual person with strange prejudices (mostly religious) and a clearly chauvinistic bent. He is however one of the great story tellers of all time. This is the story of a great patriot who loved Scotland deeply and was loved and revered deeply by his followers and friends. The novel is reputed to be a frank and realistic depiction of social conditions in England and Scotland in the period prior to the Jacobite rebellion (circa 1715). Surprisingly Rob Roy is the hero of the novel but not the primary character. Read it slowly and savor every sentence, it is a masterwork in every sense of the word. Highly recommended, not always an easy read but the story is engrossing in the extreme.
William "Cump" Sherman was arguably the best, most imaginative and original general the American army has ever produced. He single handedly invented modern warfare. He was the first to recognize that winning wars was a matter of destroying the enemies economic, industrial and agricultural base, not forcing their army to retreat or surrender as had been the goal of previous generals in previous wars. Sherman changed the face and nature of war. His is the strategy followed by all armies from the civil war to the Vietnam war.
This does not make his auto-biography easy to read or enjoyable however. I have read about 80% of this book and I must say it is tedious, long winded and at times pompous. Those sections dealing with Cump's early life in Ohio and West Point time as well as those dealing with major battles in the civil war are interesting and readable. The remainder is much less so. Although Sherman is listed as the author I find it difficult to believe he did not have help from a political speech writer of the kind we see and hear in the current and previous White House administrations. There are too many words and occasional bouts of hyperbole. I give it 4 stars and urge you to read it if you have any interest in American history. Should you have no interest in history one would be wise to give the book a pass.
This is a nasty little attack by one of Americas iconic and exceptional writers against another of our iconic and exceptional writers. Both have made great and lasting contributions to our national literature. Had this short piece not included Twain's masterful satire, wit and sly humor (something not found in Cooper) it would have demeaned Twain more than Cooper. As it is some of the descriptions are spot on and others at least generate a chuckle. Clearly not the best or most noble work of Mr. Twain but humorous is you have read both authors.
The Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R. James are truly unique in the genre in that they have very little to do with ghosts. They are not frightening, disturbing, horrific, suspenseful or even especially thought provoking however there is certainly a bland kind of interest coupled with a calm almost uneventful flow of the story which I find very comfortable. In truth they almost all deal with books, manuscripts, documents, archives or libraries. As one reads the book one has very much the feeling that he is seated in a comfortable chair in a darkened university library passing the time with a well written but not especially engrossing novel. In truth this may not seem an especially strong recommendation for the book however as I read the book on a lazy Saturday afternoon and evening whilst the sky was overcast and the rain seemed unending I found it an enjoyable and satisfying experience.

Mr. James was apparently a well known medievalist and Cambridge professor who enjoyed telling these stories to his students. It is not known if the enjoyment was reciprocated. Henry David Throeau once wrote “Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” Were I to follow Throeau's advice I would put this book about at the 50/50 mark.

Any of us who were subject to the cloying and saccharine Winnie-the-Poo stories in our early youth will have no doubt dismissed A. A. Milne as a second rate author unfit for consumption by anyone over the age of 9. This book will change your mind and make you wonder why the author spent so much time on childish tripe. The Red House Mystery deals with all the traditional English mystery elements. A manor house, several guests, a menacing family member, a variety of peculiar servants, an amateur detective, his trusty sidekick and a murder. Mix this with an underground tunnel, a bowling green and a miscreant brother and you have the recipe for an excellent British style page turner.
I was especially pleased with Antony Gillingham the amateur detective and Bill Beverly his somewhat un-Watson like assistant. It is a great shame these two did not appear in other similar mystery novels. They might have rivaled Sherlock and Watson in interest.

Milne was a Cambridge grad and math major who wrote plays, novels, and a virulently anti-war book titled Peace With Honour as well as his Winnie-the-Poo fluff.
I strongly recommend The Red House Mystery.